“Something the Lord Made” is a movie which is produced based on the true experiences of Dr. Alfred Blalock, a white American surgeon with his black surgical technician, Vivien Thomas, and his colleague, Dr. Helen Taussig, who was also a pediatric cardiologist. Together, they collaborated in finding the treatment to cure Tetralogy of Fallot, or commonly known as “blue baby syndrome”.
The story starts with Dr. Alfred Blalock hires Vivien as his janitor and he sees Vivien’s potential. Therefore, he gives him chances to develop his ability and promotes him to be a surgical technician along with him as the chief of surgery in America’s prestigious hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital. They continue on doing medical research which can contribute to the medical development, including when Dr. Taussig asks them to help her in treating one of her patient who suffers from Tetralogy of Fallot. Dr. Blalock and Vivien agree to help Dr. Taussig. They encounter several difficulties which make them think of giving up. However, they choose not to give up for the sake of the patient and their efforts eventually make them succeed in finding the way to treat “blue baby syndrome” patients, pioneer the modern cardiac surgery.
Many people say that medicine is a study of art and science which means that medicine practices arts based on the science. However, I have always believed that humanism is also important in studying and practicing medicine. Good doctors should understand the importance of maintaining the relationships between doctors and their patients. In this way, they will be able to treat patient as a whole, treating not only their physical problems but also their emotional states by always giving care and empathy to them. Arts itself is the expression of humanism. Therefore, I believe that medicine is a combination of arts, science, and humanism.
In my opinion, “Something the Lord Made” goes accordingly to these principles. This movie has left a deep impression and moral value on the importance of being a good doctor and not to mention, a good human being. As a medical student, I was once again reminded that a good doctor was not all about having brilliant knowledge, ideas, and innovations, but also about being a good human being who always respecting other people’s rights, treating others equally, being selfless (promoting altruism), etc.
Dr. Alfred Blalock had inspired me a lot in his braveness and faith towards himself. He was not afraid of breaking the rules which were firmly held by medical doctors at that time, which was “noli tangere – do not touch the heart”, resulting him being mocked around by his colleagues. However, he did not care and he still put efforts to save his patients. Thus, he makes me believe that this braveness and faith do not solely come from his ambition, but also from his devotion to save his patients, making this the main source of him to stay firm and give endless efforts in saving his patients despite negative feedbacks that he received.
Apart from that, Dr. Blalock also respected his patient’s right which was being held by the patient’s parents. He did the informed consent to the family of the patient by explaining the risks and the chances for doing the cardiac surgery in a simple enough way which the parents of the baby would understand. This gave better understanding for the parents towards the surgery. Dr. Blalock also fully understood the parents’ feelings and thus, he was being considerate to the parents and gave the parents of the blue baby time to consider. This is why I think Dr. Blalock had been professional enough to respect and be honest to the parents of the patient.
Nonetheless, I think that Dr. Blalock still lacked in some aspects of professionalism itself due to the fact that he could not control his emotion well under pressure. It can be seen when he was stressed and nervous upon the upcoming cardiac surgery. It was understandable that he contemplated whether he made the right decision to attempt the surgery and he just could not bring himself back to cancel the surgery because of his pride towards the parents of the blue baby. However, he poured out his stress by becoming angry with other people around him; in this case, other health professionals, such as a nurse in the operating room, who was yelled by him because of putting his glasses mistakenly in the wrong place. Consequently, I think that Dr. Blalock was unable to control his feeling really well because he let his mental condition affecting his work.
On the other hand, Vivien’s endless effort and compassion in medical research and development have also stunned me and inspired me a lot. He had always wanted to be a doctor since he was a child and had been saving his money for almost 7 years to go into medical school. Although he did not get to attend one until the end, he still did not abandon that dream and yet pursued it in a different way. I believe staying in Dr. Blalock’s side for years was not easy. He was given a lot of pressures from several parties and treated unequally which made him left his side several times. However, I admire him because he realized that his passion in medicine was bigger than his desire to be known by the public, meaning he was okay for being under Dr. Blalock’s shadow as long as he could continue his research and give contributions to medicine. Fortunately, Vivien’s contribution in medicine was officially appreciated with an honorary doctorate degree in the end of the movie, allowing him to be called as a doctor.
Furthermore, I admire Vivien’s attitude in treating the white doctors well despite of him being discriminated by several white doctors around him. It can be seen from his welcoming attitude towards a doctor in the hospital who wanted to join him in working with the research and his equal treatment to the students after he had been appointed as a doctor. It points out the humanity side of Vivien which replied the inequity that he had received before by treating them kindly as usual, not differentiating the race of people around him. Moreover, he also showed his professionalism for not using his status and remarkable ability as tools to get revenge towards the white people, meaning that he might have forgiven all the mistreats he received before.
Nevertheless, I should admit that Dr. Blalock and Vivien had had a unique and admirable relationship if they were being compared to the other white and black Americans at that time. Racism towards the black people was common at that time, resulting them often being underestimated by the white people in America. However, despite the fact that Vivien was an African – American, he still saw the potential within him and guided him to develop his potential in surgical aspect, even though he was also often being ridiculed by his colleagues for keeping a black person by his side. Meanwhile, Vivien also trusted and respected Dr. Blalock despite his financial difficulties before Dr. Blalock gave him a rise in paycheck. Moreover, he was also suggested to leave Dr. Blalock’s side to search for better jobs numerous times due to the racism occurring around him, resulting him not be able to have his right despite his contributions. Nonetheless, he rejected that idea by stating that he loved what he was doing with Dr. Blalock and believed that Dr. Blalock had also done everything that he could for him.
However, I feel that it is such a waste that Dr. Blalock was unable to give Vivien an appropriate appreciation towards Vivien’s contributions in finding the treatment of Tetralogy of Fallot. In this case, I see the human side of Dr. Blalock. He was overwhelmed with all the praises which he got for succeeding the cardiac surgery and was too greedy to admit that Vivien had also contributed a lot in this surgery. This fact was also supported by the fact that Vivien was not a doctor and he was a black African – American, making him even more invisible in this accomplishment. Nevertheless, it was a comforting moment when Dr. Blalock finally admitted that he regretted all the bad things he had done to Vivien, conveying his sorry to Vivien.
Lastly, I want to emphasize that this movie has great moral values within it. It encourages me not to be afraid of being different than other people and have faith in myself. It can be seen from the principle which Dr. Blalock and Vivien held despite being underestimated by other people. Due to the fact that they kept on trying about something which other people thought was ridiculous and had faith in themselves, they were able to conduct something new and give new understanding about cardiac surgery. We can imagine if they were too afraid to go against the rules and fell into the unsupportive words of other people, we would not have any advanced cardiac surgeries in the world today.
In addition, this movie has successfully encouraged me to dream big. Not to mention, this dream should also be accompanied by endless efforts. Even though the outcome may not be as good as what I expected it to be, I believe it will all be worth it. Everything happens for a reason and thus, everything will be beautiful in its time and all we need to do is just giving our best efforts towards our dreams. To correlate it with the fact that I am being a medical student, this movie encourages me to develop myself to be a better person each day with contribution to the medical world, whether it is to be a researcher, clinician, or actively contributing in both of it. Moreover, I should not forget to develop humanism, professionalism, and cultural competency so that I am able to be a doctor who is able to treat my patient as a whole and not only treating the disease. In this way, I will be able to maximize the patient’s satisfaction and minimize the potential harms to the patient; thus, making me able to develop the “do no harm” aspect in my future medical practice.